Air Weapons: August 30, 2005


The U.S. Department of Defense is all excited about its new laser cannon design (HELLADS, or High Energy Laser Area Defense System), that enables powerful combat laser cannon to be built small enough to fit in two pods that can be carried by a fighter. The previous design (THEL), in the works for nearly a decade, took up most of the space in a modified Boeing 747. A working prototype of HELLADS generated a 1 kilowatt (Kw) beam, and researchers believe they can improve that to a militarily useful 150 Kw within two years. This level of energy would enable a laser cannon to destroy missiles and aircraft at ranges over ten kilometers. 

What was not mentioned in all the PR hoopla surrounding this announcement was the fuel supply problem. Making the laser cannon itself much smaller is a neat bit of engineering, but for this weapon to fly, there will have to be another breakthrough technology that will provide the huge amounts of electricity needed for each shot. Ask around, and people will whisper, advanced fuel cells. But, like the 150 Kw HELLADS, dont hold your breath for the marvelous new energy sources, or F-22s armed with laser cannon, within the next decade. Someday, but not soon.


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